Characterization of toll-like receptors 1–10 in spotted hyenas
Previous research has shown that spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) regularly survive exposure to deadly pathogens such as rabies, canine distemper virus, and anthrax, suggesting that they have robust immune defenses. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) recognize conserved molecular patterns and initiate a wide range of innate and adaptive immune responses. TLR genes are evolutionarily conserved, and assessing TLR expression in various tissues can provide insight into overall immunological organization and function. Studies of the hyena immune system have been minimal thus far due to the logistical and ethical challenges of sampling and preserving the immunological tissues of this and other long-lived, wild species. Tissue samples were opportunistically collected from captive hyenas humanely euthanized for a separate study. We developed primers to amplify partial sequences for TLRs 1–10, sequenced the amplicons, compared sequence identity to those in other mammals, and quantified TLR expression in lymph nodes, spleens, lungs, and pancreases. Results show that hyena TLR DNA and protein sequences are similar to TLRs in other mammals, and that TLRs 1–10 were expressed in all tissues tested. This information will be useful in the development of new assays to understand the interactions among the hyena immune system, pathogens, and the microbial communities that inhabit hyenas.